Within the health and fitness industries, the topic of mental issues has been continually brushed under the carpet as something to avoid discussing. Whether performance based ailments, or those stemming from disease, it has become an issue through our inability as a society to openly discuss these problems that need to be diagnosed and treated for the sake of well being.
I assert that it is due to the pre-existing stigma behind mental issues that the field of sports psychology is so relatively under developed. It has only been within the last century that sports psych has come to fruition as a legitimate field of study, despite the fact that organized sport has been taking place for over a thousand years. While the physical aspect of sports performance cannot, and should not be overlooked, most elite level athletes agree that their success is around 20% physical and 80% mental.
With that said, one must ask, why is sports psychology not more widespread? Why are we not teaching mental strategies within our youth development programs. We could set young athletes up for years of elevated performance even if we were just to teach them simple strategies designed to improve self-confidence, such as positive self talk, visualization, and goal setting.
While the field is now growing steadily and is being seen more and more as an effective tool employed by high level athletes, it is clear that efforts must be made to educate more influencers within sport. Whether trainers, coaches, or sports psych professionals, the continued spread and development of sports psychology is a must. Not only will it produce more effective athletes, but it will also begin to improve awareness of mental health overall, diminishing the negative stigma associated with the topic.